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‘Wear and Tear’? Don’t worry about it!

We all love a rhyme. Rhymes and alliteration, in fact.

Evolutionary psychologists put it down to the fact that humans passed knowledge through the generations by telling stories. Our lives literally depended on remembering knowledge passed down by our elders, so the easier it is to remember, the better. Studies have even shown that different parts of our brain fire up when we are taught something using rhyme or alliteration, compared to the same information explained without them.

Most rhymes are a great tool to help us remember things, but strangely, some actually cause us harm.

In the last ten years there have been some amazing breakthroughs in the world of pain science. We are starting to understand that a major influencer of chronic pain is the language we use (both in our heads and out loud).

 

‘Wear and Tear’

If you have ever been told you have ‘wear and tear’, what image does it create in your mind? The word ‘tear’ in particular, that’s the strongest image in my mind. I imagine a tethered shipping rope, or an old pair of jeans. But this is not how the body works.

Yes, we wear as we age, but we also repair. Our bodies are known as ‘bioplastic’, which means that they adapt to the stimulus they are given. While we are wearing, we are repairing.

The image I have in my mind of a tethered rope is also untrue. Muscles and tendons can tear, but in reality, the effect is more like a small hole in a sheet, rather than a torn rope. Imagine holding up a bedsheet with a hole in it; you’d still be able to create tension in the sheet by pulling on the corners, wouldn’t you?

Our muscles do the same. Once the inflammation has died down, a muscle can still function even with strains in them.

On very rare occasions a muscle will completely tear and that can require surgery, but guess what, that repairs too!

 

Degeneration

Some other interesting research is showing that there isn’t much correlation between degenerative changes in our body and pain. Sometimes there is a link, but if you were to scan 100 random people, most of them would have some form of joint degeneration but only a few of them would have pain.

You may be thinking, “this is all well and good, but I do have pain related to arthritis, there’s no hope for me”. Well, the research comes to the rescue here as well.

Just because you have pain now, it doesn’t mean you always will or that it will get worse. Take the right actions and you can change.

 

Here are some rhymes and alliterations that are more helpful:

  • ‘Motion is the Lotion’
  • ‘Movement is Medicine’

 

‘Wear and Repair’

Get ‘wear and tear’ out your head. Tell yourself that you might wear but you can also repair.

The way you repair is by getting the right hands-on treatment to accelerate the reduction in pain (that’s where we can help). Then nourish your tissues (remember, motion is the lotion!), and use the medicine of movement to stay loose, strong and coordinated.

All you care about day to day is how well you can move through the space around you and whether or not it causes pain. The fact that there is some wear in your body (which most of the time doesn’t cause pain) is not an issue.

Check your language and be positive.

If you are in pain, get treatment and keep moving! Simple!

Any enquiries about treatment can be made by emailing [email protected], calling 01245 522360, or you can explore our website. We also give out lots of exercise and health videos on YouTube and Facebook so you can follow us there.

Have a healthy month!

 

This blog has been inspired by the wonderfully funny, educational and inspiring knowledge from the guys at noijam. I encourage you to check them out if you suffer with chronic pain or if you want to delve deeper into the curious world of neurology.

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What Is the Best Way to Stretch?

Fitness can be broadly split into three categories: cardio, strength and flexibility. It’s not quite as simple as that, but that covers the bases.

 

Cardio

As a teen, I had the cardio one covered. I did not stop. Early morning swimming training, badminton every lunchtime, running most evenings, football training a couple of times a week, cycling to see mates … my heart and lungs were sorted!

However, I was no Arnold Schwarzenegger. Having had the rapid growth of a boy destined to be 6’ 2”, my arms and legs were more spaghetti than penne. I was not exactly what you would call ‘strong’.

And if you asked me to touch my toes? I’d be lucky to get past my knees. My muscles felt like lead wires, creaking under the tension. But, I was 16, so I didn’t care.

 

Strength

However, at that age, the testosterone kicks in. Suddenly, the reflection in the mirror with the spaghetti arms was not good enough, so I did what a lot of young men do and I went to the shop, bought a magazine on weightlifting, read it cover to cover and went and lifted weights.

My mates and I became mildly obsessed with this hobby and over time we added a couple of stone to our skinny frames and strength started to take hold.

However, as I’m sure you can imagine, we weren’t exactly into the stretching side of things. By prioritising strength (actually, by prioritising biceps) our bodies had become immobile lumps of meat. Despite looking athletic, we couldn’t really move!

This model of training worked for a time, while the testosterone was raging at least. But then something strange started to happen. I started to get injured. Through my twenties, I would have fairly common joint pain.

It didn’t make sense to me – I thought I was fit! But as I trained to be an osteopath, and did further study into biomechanics after my degree, my obsession with the reflection in the mirror dwindled and it switched to freedom of movement.

 

Flexibility

Whereas previously I cared about the circumference of my biceps, my focus shifted to how well I could move in the space around me.

In my training, I asked my body questions like:

  • How well can I get up and down from the floor?
  • Can I reach my hands down to the floor, up over my head and behind me?
  • How clean do my hips feel?

Initially, the answers weren’t good! But I’ve had these questions as my main focus for about 5 years now and the transformation has been incredible.

 

A Blended Approach

My point of this story is that I have been through stages in my life where I have had good levels of all three forms of fitness, and I can honestly say the flexibility is the one that feels the best.

Obviously, it’s not all or nothing. By having one form of fitness, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore the others, and I still think it’s super important to have enough strength to cope with life and we should do some cardio from time to time. But day to day, the feeling of being able to move in my own body and through the space around me trumps the other two.

 

So, this begs the question, what’s the best way to stretch?

In my ten years of practice as an osteopath, I have researched many different styles of stretching. When I say ‘style’, I am not talking about Pilates vs Yoga. Both of them are excellent forms of exercise that bring many other health benefits than just flexibility. By ‘style’, I mean the sort of stimulus one is putting through the muscle.

Research changes over time and one style will become very ‘in vogue’ for a while, then it will be discredited and another one takes its place. I have become a bit bored with it all because I have discovered in both my own body and in that of my patients that there is only one thing that works:

 

CONSISTENCY.

 

Static vs dynamic, passive vs loaded, isolated vs functional – it doesn’t matter if you don’t do it consistently!

I have started to think about flexibility training in very simple terms. It is merely the practice of getting your body more comfortable in moving through the space around you. The only way to do this is to test yourself most days.

 

If you are currently feeling inflexible and don’t know where to start, you’re in luck! It has never been easier to get information thanks to YouTube. Type in “beginner stretching routine” and fill your boots. Just five minutes a day is a very powerful thing. Make it a habit and it becomes effortless. Eventually, it even becomes enjoyable!

Slowly, over time, you will gain freedom in your movement and you will notice fewer niggles. It’s a wonderful feeling!

If you want any ideas we have videos on our Facebook page and Youtube channel.

Get stretching, reclaim your movement, and have a healthy month!